Garlic can prevent infection inside or outside the body.
Garlic's infection-fighting capability was confirmed in a study conducted by researchers at the University of Ottawa that was published in the April 2005 issue of Phytotherapy Research. Researchers tested 19 natural health products that contain garlic and five fresh garlic extracts for active compounds and antimicrobial activity.
They tested the effectiveness of these substances against three types of common bacteria: E. faecalis, which causes urinary tract infections; N. gonorrhoeae, which causes the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea; and S. aureus, which is responsible for many types of infections that are common in hospitals. The products most successful at eradicating these bacteria were the ones with the highest allicin content.
Now garlic is being investigated to see whether it can help us battle microbes that are resistant to antibiotics. Can garlic go where current antibiotics cannot and knock out the resistant bacteria? Perhaps.
One simple but meaningful demonstration of garlic's antibacterial power can be found in a study conducted at the University of California, Irvine. Garlic juice was tested in the laboratory against a wide spectrum of potential pathogens, including several antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. It showed significant activity against the pathogens. Even more exciting was the fact that garlic juice still retained significant antimicrobial activity even in dilutions ranging up to 1:128 of the original juice.
This is exciting news because oral health can impact the rest of your body. For instance, disease-causing bacteria in your mouth can get into the bloodstream via bleeding gums, travel to your heart valve, and damage it.
In a Rutgers University study that used bacteria in lab dishes, garlic and two common antibiotics were pitted against certain antibiotic-resistant strains of S. aureus (a gram-positive bacteria) and E. coli (a gram-negative bacteria). Garlic was able to significantly increase the effectiveness of the two antibiotic medications in killing the bacteria.
Research done in Mexico City at a facility supported by the National Institutes of Health of Mexico also showed some interesting results. It extended previous research in rats that used aged garlic extract and various sulfur-containing compounds from garlic along with gentamicin, a powerful antibiotic that can cause kidney damage. When any of the garlic compounds was ingested along with gentamicin, kidney damage was diminished.
Next, researchers set about to determine whether garlic weakened the effectiveness of gentamicin. As it turns out, the exact opposite happened: Garlic actually enhanced the effect of gentamicin. These findings indicate that with the use of garlic, perhaps less gentamicin would be needed, and kidney damage could be minimized.
Judging by research conducted in lab dishes and animals, it appears that garlic is a strong defender against microbes, even against those that have developed a resistance to common antibiotics. It also appears that garlic enhances the effects of some traditional antibiotics. But does it stand up to the test in humans?
Battling the Bugs Within
Eating raw garlic may help combat the sickness-causing bugs that get loose inside our bodies. Garlic has been used internally as a folk remedy for years, but now the plant is being put to the test scientifically for such uses. So far, its grades are quite good as researchers pit it against a variety of bacteria.
For eons, herbalists loaded soups and other foods with garlic and placed garlic compresses on people's chests to provide relief from colds and chest congestion. Now the Mayo Clinic has stated, "preliminary reports suggest that garlic may reduce the severity of upper respiratory tract infection." The findings have not yet passed the scrutiny of numerous, large, well-designed human studies, so current results are classified as "unclear."
Can a garlic clove help stop your sniffles? A study published in the July/August 2001 issue of Advances in Therapy examined the stinking rose's ability to fight the common cold. The study involved 146 volunteers divided into two groups. One group took a garlic supplement for 12 weeks during the winter months, while the other group received a placebo. The group that received garlic had significantly fewer colds -- and the colds that they did get went away faster -- than the placebo group.
Garlic also may help rid the intestinal tract of Giardia lamblia, a parasite that commonly lives in stream water and causes giardiasis, an infection of the small intestine. Hikers and campers run the risk of this infection whenever they drink untreated stream or lake water.
Herbalists prescribe a solution of one or more crushed garlic cloves stirred into one-third of a cup of water taken three times a day to eradicate Giardia. If you're fighting giardiasis, be sure to consult your health-care provider, because it's a nasty infection, and ask if you can try garlic as part of your treatment.
Finally, in the January 2005 issue of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, researchers reported the results of an investigation into whether fresh garlic extract would inhibit C. albicans, a cause of yeast infections. The extract was very effective in the first hour of exposure to C. albicans, but the effectiveness decreased during the 48-hour period it was measured. However, traditional antifungal medications also have the same declining effectiveness as time passes.
A solution of raw garlic and water may stop
wounds from becoming infected.
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